Mayor Fischer announces official start of pilot project to deflect some 911 calls to a non-police response

March 21, 2022

Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that a pilot program to deflect a number of 911 calls to a non-police response has officially begun in Louisville Metro Police Department’s Fourth Division.

“We know that some situations where people are calling for police are really better served by a social service response,” said Mayor Fischer, whose FY22 budget included a nearly $5 million investment for this work as part of his “whole of government, whole of city” approach to public safety.

The Mayor announced plans for the pilot effort in October following the recommendations from the University of Louisville Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky (CIK). The city then reached out to experts and other cities on best practices before entering into a contract with Seven Counties Services. Metro Council approved the contract in January. Since then, Seven Counties has hired and trained staffers to operate the pilot, focused on problem-solving, de-escalation and referral to appropriate community services.

Seven of the 11 people hired for the pilot program initially will be on the mobile response team responding in the field to initial calls; two will be within a Behavior Health Hub at MetroSafe, triaging calls; and two are case managers who will provide follow up and connection to services after the call.

The pilot program is starting its operations in the 4th Division with one shift, seven-days-a-week. Seven Counties Services will continue to hire more people throughout the pilot to expand the hours of operation – and if successful, the pilot could be expanded. LMPD’s Fourth Division was chosen for the pilot because of its high number of Crisis Intervention-related calls, an average of 11.63 events each day.

Mayor Fischer noted that the city also is working with the University of Louisville to evaluate the project’s effectiveness. They’re expected to issue their first report within two- to three-months of operation. 

Here’s how the program will work:

  • When a first-person caller calls into 911 from LMPD’s 4th Division, MetroSafe call takers initially will triage the call to determine, through a combination of automated options, if the call should be transferred to Crisis Triage Workers (CTW) in a new Behavioral Health Hub within MetroSafe.
  • The CTW team will function like crisis hotline staff to de-escalate, provide emotional support, create a safety plan, and problem solve for the person in crisis. The report from CIK had described the triage team’s mission as “to assist persons in crisis and first responders by providing empathy, connection, de-escalation, and linkage to the right-sized care.”
  • If CTW determines that a face-to-face response would be beneficial, they will initiate a mobile response. 

Mobile responders, trained in mental health crisis intervention, will meet the person where they are to further de-escalate and assess the situation and, if appropriate, connect the individual to service. Responders have the option of transporting the person to the community respite center at Seven Counties, or to another community resource, such as a shelter. 

The respite center, already in use at one of Seven Counties’ Addiction Recovery Centers, is staffed around the clock. Direct care counselors, case managers, and senior clinicians can engage with people and connect them to whatever supports are beneficial and available, as determined by the person in crisis and staff member engaging with them.

“One thing we learned from other cities we’ve visited and talked with is that it’s a good idea to start small, with a pilot like this, and then check in with the community about what is working and what’s not and make changes as necessary,” said Jody Meiman, who oversees the work of MetroSafe in his role as the city’s Director of Emergency Services. “We’re excited about the potential for this pilot.”

“Seven Counties Services is excited to begin implementation on this project in conjunction with Louisville Metro Government, the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences, Spalding University, and other community partners to ensure the safety and security of all of our neighbors,” said Abby Drane, President and CEO, Seven Counties Services. “Community Mental Health Centers were formed in 1970’s for this exact purpose, divert our community members living with mental illness from hospitalization and incarceration with intensive community-based services.”

“Deescalating volatile situations and connecting those in need to critical resources are key components of our work, but we recognize that some situations are better served by someone trained in behavioral health,” said LMPD Chief Erika Shields. “We welcome the pilot project and will provide any assistance necessary to help ensure its success.”

Mayor Fischer agreed. “First and foremost, this effort is meant to get residents experiencing difficulty the right care immediately,” he said. “It also will help our LMPD officers by reducing the number of runs they’re making for issues outside their expertise, and we expect it will help the jail as well by reducing the number of people taken there who are presenting with behavioral health issues. This has the potential to be a win all the way around. I appreciate all those who’ve worked so hard to get us this far, and all those continuing the work today.”

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